There is now a small but growing body of evidence to demonstrate that LGBTQ library patrons often have specific and distinct information needs and information-seeking behaviours. We now present the results of a survey into the knowledge and comfort level of academic librarians in the US and Canada to their LGBTQ patrons, and provide updated suggestions for libraries wishing to improve their efforts to better serve this user group.
libraries, LGBTQ patrons, information needs, librarians, training
Academic librarians working with their LGBTQ patrons: An exploratory survey
There is now a small but growing body of evidence to demonstrate that LGBTQ library patrons often have specific and distinct information needs and information-seeking behaviours (Beiringer and Jackson, 2007; Schaller, 2011; Morris and Roberto, 2016). Many academic libraries are recognizing these specific needs and making increasing efforts to meet them, informed by new diversity statements and plans. However, these efforts are far from universal.
Given the increased attention and awareness of LGBTQ issues, librarians must be equipped to assist researchers and consumers with LGBTQ-themed inquiries. A number of studies have been conducted with physicians, mental health counsellors, and other health professionals regarding LGBTQ knowledge and training needs. However, there is a lack of research in this area pertaining to librarians.
To address this gap, the authors have conducted a survey into the knowledge and comfort level of academic librarians across the US and Canada towards these specific needs and towards the efforts of libraries to better serve their LGBTQ patrons. In this poster, we report the results and subsequent analysis of a web-based survey of survey of respondents' knowledge and comfort level.
We surveyed a non-random sample of academic librarians, conducted using a web-based survey tool (SurveyMonkey). Respondents answered 20 questions, covering demographic and professional information and knowledge of various terms related to sexuality and gender, and were asked to state their likely reactions to a range of sample reference situations where LGBTQ information-seeking is a significant factor. A total of 538 responses has so far been received, primarily from the United States.
A majority of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they would benefit from additional training to help serve LGBTQ information needs. Open-ended comments revealed a lack of ability to respond to LGBT-themed inquiries. Common themes included the need to learn about current information resources, participate in instruction on answering sexuality questions (including sexual orientation), and gain practical advice for making their library welcoming to the LGBT community.
Other interesting barriers were raised by respondents, such as institutional culture, collection development and maintenance practices, discriminatory subject headings, and lack of support for practices such as preferred names, for example for transgender patrons. Open-ended comments also included strongly supportive to strongly dissenting attitudes regarding acceptance and support of LGBTQ patrons.
Full results will be available by May 2017.
While many academic libraries have made significant efforts to better serve their LGBTQ patrons, there is a need for more librarians to have the skills and comfort level to better meet the needs of this user group. Results indicate a clear need for training, not only for public-facing staff but for those in leadership positions. This should be accompanied by increased explicit outreach to LGBTQ patrons and the display of visible signs of support.
Beiriger, A., & Jackson, R.M. (2007). An assessment of the information needs of transgender communities in Portland, Oregon. Public Library Quarterly, 26(1/2), 45-60.
Morris, M., & Roberto, K.R. (2016). Information-seeking behaviour and information needs of LGBTQ health professionals: a follow-up study. Health Information and Libraries Journal. 33, 204-221.
Schaller, S. (2011). Information needs of LGBTQ college students. Libri: International Journal of Libraries & Information Services, 61(2), 100-115.